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Tomgram: Andrea Mazzarino, Our Needs Versus the Pentagon's

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Tom Engelhardt
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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Don't you wonder sometimes why officials in Washington have never paid the slightest attention to that famous old Vietnam-era song lyric, "War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!"? After all, two decades of the American "Global War on Terror" (as it was once called) seems, above all, to have acted as a remarkable recruitment poster for terror outfits that, in these years, have spread from Afghanistan across the Greater Middle East and deep into Africa. In some sense, in our time, terror ask Afghans now being bombed and murdered by ISIS-K isn't so much the cause of war as the price of war. And honestly, I can't help but think that, if he were alive today, Osama bin Laden would be laughing all too hard, since from his point of view no one could have expected a better response to the 9/11 attacks than this country offered when it promptly invaded Afghanistan (with Iraq already in the gunsights of the Bush administration's top officials).

Recently, in a striking piece at the American Prospect, Stephanie Savell laid out just how, in these years, Washington's version of militarism has become "the most significant recruiting device for groups that use terror tactics." She focused on Africa where no matter what you may have heard our forever wars are anything but over. Like today's author, TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino, Savell was a co-founder of Brown University's remarkable Costs of War Project, which has continually produced crucial information on our disastrous wars and their effects that you could find nowhere else, including the stunning costs of, and death toll (especially on civilians) from, those conflicts.

Today, in her usual deeply personal and thoughtful way, Mazzarino considers the costs of war for us in this country or, put another way, why it's been so hard for so many in Washington (hi, Republicans! Hi, Joe and Kyrsten!) to imagine spending the sort of money on our needs that they wouldn't think twice about forking over to the military-industrial complex for our wars from hell and the weaponry to pursue them right into a series of horrors, including (as the New York Times reported recently) the covert killing of women and children in stunning numbers. Tom

The Costs of War (to You)
Where So Much of Our Money Really Went

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As a Navy spouse of 10 years and counting, my life offers an up-close view of our country's priorities when it comes to infrastructure and government spending.

Recently, my husband, a naval officer currently serving with the Department of Energy, spent a week with colleagues touring a former nuclear testing site about 65 miles north of Las Vegas. Between 1951 and 1957, the U.S. conducted more than 1,000 nuclear tests in those 680 square miles of desert and only stopped when scientists began urging that the tests be halted because of soaring cancer rates among the downwind residents of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.

My spouse's trip was a kind of ritual Department of Energy personnel undertake to learn about nuclear weapons as they maintain our country's vast and still wildly expanding arsenal.

Meanwhile, unable to afford to take time off from my job as a therapist, I found myself once again working double shifts. After all, I was also watching our two young children (ages four and six), shuttling them to appointments and activities along the narrow roads of our rural town, handling a sudden school shutdown due to flooded roads that halted school buses, while working. And mine is really the usual story for so many of the partners of this country's 1.3 million active-duty military personnel when they are sent elsewhere on assignment.

My six year old typically woke me at night to ask whether his dad was shooting at people and started throwing the sort of tantrums that had become uncharacteristic since his father stopped serving months-long deployments on submarines. Once recently, he even conned his already overworked bus driver our county, one of the richest in the country, has a deficit of such drivers, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic into taking him home rather than to his after-school program. He let himself into our house and appeared at my office door to "make sure you haven't left, too."

It was hard to miss the irony of being overstretched at home by poor infrastructure and gaps in care (even as I went into debt to pay for the most affordable childcare center in the area) at a moment when the government was perfectly happy to fund my spouse to tour a mothballed nuclear testing site. His trip came on the heels of two 14-hour days he spent at the Capitol displaying a collection of model warheads to members of Congress. They then chatted with one another and him in a rare bipartisan moment that we as a couple witnessed.

At that time, members of the House of Representatives had yet to even vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to fund our country's roads, bridges, buses, and electric grid, which to our relief would pass two weeks later. And when it comes to President Biden's shrinking Build Back Better bill, who knows if it will ever be passed?

It's about time! was all I could think when I heard that the first bill was about to be signed into law. I couldn't help imagining how useful so much of what's packed into both of them would be for people like me not least of all things in the Build Back Better plan like universal pre-K and some paid family leave, four weeks of which I could have used over the past two months of my husband's military travels and my own late nights. And mind you, as someone with a great job and a relatively high family income, I have it much better than the vast majority of Americans, military or not.

20 Years of War

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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